Cayetano pushes for cultural agencies to retain own income
MANILA, Philippines—Dismayed by the presidential veto, Senator Pia Cayetano vowed on Wednesday to push for a legislation that would increase the amount government cultural agencies could retain to augment their revolving funds.
“I am about to file a committee report in the Senate increasing the amount the cultural agencies can retain to augment their revolving funds,” Cayetano said in a statement as she expressed disappointment over the presidential veto on special provisions in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which would have authorized the cultural agencies to fully retain their income.
In particular, the senator lamented the President’s line-veto of several items in the 2015 GAA that sought to lift the cap on income that may be retained and used as revolving funds by the National Museum (NM), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), respectively.
It was Cayetano herself who introduced the provisions as part of the Senate amendments to the 2015 budget before the measure was submitted to Malacañang for the President’s signature.
She said the disallowed provisions would have allowed NM, NCCA and NHCP, “to augment their operational budget to help save endangered heritage sites across the country.”
“These provisions only sought to give our cultural agencies the authority to retain income they generated from their own activities. Instead of making them begging for additional funding every year, isn’t it better that they use their own income? It doesn’t make sense that the little amount they earn has to be returned to the national treasury given that the budget needed to maintain and protect our cultural agencies is inadequate,” said the senator.
This “income,” she pointed out, refers to park and museum entrance fees and donations, sales of reproductions, cultural items and publications, rendering of technical services, conferences, workshops and other similar activities undertaken by the three agencies.
“It is unfortunate the veto came at this crucial time when many of our cultural and historical properties are under threat of demolition or defacing by private developers, with local officials acting as accomplices, in brazen defiance of our national heritage law,” Cayetano said.
“While I respect the Executive’s position, the veto does not bode well for heritage conservation this year. In 2014, we saw how many historical sites, such as the Army and Navy Club, the Sta. Ana Archaeological Zone, and our national monument itself, the Rizal Shrine in Luneta, were pillaged in the guise of ‘development.’ What other heritage sites are we bound to lose this year?” she asked.
With insufficient personnel and a small operational budget, the senator said, the cultural agencies have been experiencing difficulty in carrying out their constitutional mandate to safeguard historical sites and issue cease-and-desist-orders against violators of our heritage law.
“And now, we are denying them access to income they could otherwise reinvest to promote and protect our heritage,” Cayetano further lamented.
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